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DateOriginal Topic
2nd July 2003Making of Zulu
By Stephen Coan
A feature article on the making of the film Zulu will be published in Pietermaritzburg's daily newspaper, the Natal Witness, tomorrow (July 3). You can view it on Scroll down the home page and find the Features section on the left.
3rd July 2003John Young

Could you please explain you why you believe the following statements that you have written are correct?

1; That many of the Rorke's Drift defenders were 'Welshmen'.

2; That the action at Rorke's Drift resulted in the award of more Victoria Crosses than in any other action.

Both of these conclusions have been discussed on the pages of this forum in the past - both have been refuted. Yet you seem to have fallen back on the journalist's great maxim of 'If the legend is better than the truth, then print the legend.'

I'm curious also about comment made by one people that you interviewed regarding the length of the soldiers' hair. When there is much photographic evidence from 1879 to refute that remark, cropped or very short hair seems to have been something of the normal. I cite as examples photographs taken of the exiled Prince Imperial of France, Lord Chelmsford, Lieutenant N.J.A. Coghill V.C. and many others.

It just seems such a curious statement for the man to make. Why the production company went to great (hair) lengths to produce it intrigues me.

John Y.

3rd July 2003Ian Woodason

Good article - I gather that the 'print' copy has some really good pictures with it too?

3rd July 2003Mike McCabe
I'm surprised that Stephen should be given such a hard time simply for recounting what has, rightly or wrongly, become part of the 'legend/myths' surrounding this battle. The film Zulu has a lot to answer for but the article seems a pretty fair, and informative, summary of its making. There are quite a few photographs showing soldiers with fairly long hair, and examples in Lady Butler's painting - some subjects being sketched from life. In those days, each company probably had its set of hairclipping sheers (as most nits have today) and whenever the opportunity arose would have had their hair trimmed back as the principal way of keeping it fairly clean. Beards and moustaches would have protected the skin of the face, chin, lips and throat usefully against sunburn. Daily shaving of the face would not have been very practicable whilst in the field for long periods and the risk of a razor nick or cut becoming infected would also have been taken seriously.
3rd July 2003John Young

What's this another attempt at military censorship? If a journalist makes two major errors in one paragraph - the number of Welsh defenders & the number of V.C.'s at Rorke's Drift being the highest awarded in a single action - having invited us to have a look at his own work. Are we not allowed to point out those errors in order that he does not perpetuate those myths?

As to the hair length, please point me in the direction of a photograph which shows a British soldier in the field in Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, with long hair down the nape of his neck, as described in the interview. If the soldiers did have long hair down the nape of necks this would surely have prevented their "red necks" from exposure to the sun, wouldn't it? What would the locals have called then - the not-so red necks?

John Y.
4th July 2003Melvin Hunt
I think that what Mike is saying (correct me if I'm wrong, Mike) is that the TONE of your response is, shall we say, antagonisitic and negative.
I have read the article and I found it intereresting. It has served its purpose!
And I totaly agree with Steven that the Natal Park could promote the film location much better.
Yes, you are right about the points you have raised, but couldn't you have balanced your response with a littlle thanks or encouragement for the article?
4th July 2003Diana Blackwell
Wow, when was it established that Rorke's Drift did not generate the largest number of VCs for a single action? Forgive my ignorance, but I had always heard that this was the case and I can't recall ever seeing the related forum discussions to which you refer. If this is indeed a myth, then it is a myth that this very website perpetuates in its subtitle: "the largest number of Victoria Crosses awarded to a regiment for one action."
4th July 2003John Young

I have long since stopped seeing the Anglo-Zulu War through the rose-tinted glasses of its cinematic image. Instead I would rather research the true facets of the campaign. If to tell the truth rather than the legend hurts, then yes I have been, as you style it, 'antagonistic and negative'.

As I see it there is no need to balance my response with flattery, if my blunt, matter-of-fact reasoning causes Stephen to examine his historical sources more carefully in future, I have acheived my purpose.

I see however, I have wrongly attributed the comment about the hair to someone who had been interviewed; whereas in fact Stephen was quoting from a contemporary reporter back in 1963.

John Y.
4th July 2003John Young

I've certainly mentioned this before on this site, which is why I believe the subtitle was changed, to what it reads now.

The largest number of Victoria Crosses in a single action was twenty-seven at the Second Relief of Lucknow, between 14th-22nd November, 1857, during the Indian Mutiny.

17 were awarded for action on 16th November, 1857, alone.

3 were awarded in respect of 17th November.

2 were awarded in respect of 18th November.

5 for actions over the 14th-22nd November, although I believe these may have been by ballot.

However, the 17 awards of the Victoria Cross for the 18th November, 1857, are surpassed by the 19 awards made in respect of the Battle of Inkerman, on 5th November, 1854, in the Crimean War. It should be said however, four of those awards are linked with other actions as well as Inkerman.

Of those actions described above the maximum number awarded to one regiment was six - to the 93rd Highlanders for 16th November, 1857. So for seven members of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment to be awarded the V.C. for their actions on 22nd/23rd January, 1879, at Rorke's Drift, does actually make it 'the largest number of Victoria Crosses awarded to a regiment for one action.'

The Lancashire Fusiliers came close at Gallipoli in 1915, where they were also awarded six V.C.'s.

I hope this answers your query.

John Y.
4th July 2003Stephen Coan
Apologies for the legend. Thanks for the facts.
4th July 2003Melvin Hunt
The point I was making was that I (and Mike) thought you were a little hard on Stephen. He was not writing an academic highly researched article for some eminent historical magazine. He was writing a small piece about the making of a film, for Gods Sake!
I feel that your (in your own words) "blunt matter of fact" response to Stephen could discourage potential contributors to the site. Thats the whole point.
I did not ask you to unnecessarily flatter contributors but to use some diplomacy and encouragement occasionally when responding to an article such as this. It was like you were shooting the proverbial sitting duck.
You imply that we would rather see the legend than the true facts. That is nonsense and I take exception to that. Stephen printed the legend because he did not know the true facts. We could see that, why couldn't you?
and in your haste to admonish him you got some of it wrong.
I dont know why you have implied that I (and possibly Mike) see the Anglo Zulu War through the rose tinted glasses of its cinematic image. That is certainly not the case.
I do not wish to detract at all from the immense contribution you make to this site but sometimes I feel that there is a right and also a wrong way to do it.
4th July 2003Edward Bear
'Royal' Anglo Zulu War Research Society, or 'Imperious' AZWRS? Hard to tell really.

4th July 2003Dave Nolan
This is John's website and in a democratic system he is free to give his opinions on his own website.

4th July 2003John Young

Stephen is a journalist working on a long established Natal newspaper. A simple check on the archives of that newspaper reveals he has more than a passing interest in the Anglo-Zulu War. I am lead to believe he has also made other contributions on the subject elsewhere, in what some may well style an 'eminent historical magazine'. I think it would take more than my comments to discourage him from writing on the subject again.

Don't see Stephen as a 'sitting duck' rather he is an informed person on the subject, as can be seen in his reply on Henry Rider Haggard, of today. Indeed above he makes his own apology for the legend. The maxim I quoted, I am sure Stephen will recognise is from 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance', given his knowledge of films, which is obvious from some of his contributions to 'The Natal Witness'.

As to the rose-tinted glasses, I wrote that I no longer see the Anglo-Zulu War through them, that you concluded that this was a jibe at you, and possibly Mike, is the wrong conclusion. (Indeed outside of the forum Mike & I have been engaged in a discussion on the use of mules during the campaign.) These are your own opinions on my words, not mine.


I sorry say I don't see your name in our membership list, perhaps you'd like to sign up and see just how imperious we are? Or have others coloured your view of us? And you prejudge us without making your own conclusions.

The society's new name as given to us on the 22nd January, 2003 is the Royal Zulu War Society, but until the completion of our current volume No. 8, it remains the Anglo-Zulu War Research Society, I hope that clarifies your comment.

The fact that we chose to change our name to avoid confusion with a limited company, that bears a not unlike name, was taken after lengthy discussions with certain of the society's patrons & officers.


I hate to correct you but this isn't my website. That honour goes to Alan & Peter Critchley.

John Young,
5th July 2003Melvin Hunt
Thanks for the reply. I'm sure It has helped to clarify your strong views on how you feel it is absolutely vital that everyone should get their facts right and not perpetuate the myths and legends, including the most well known ones.
I'm just curious, what is this limited company you refer to?
5th July 2003neil Aspinshaw
Hey Lads!
reel your necks in a bit and chill!, look what happened to Chelmsford when he got a bit carried away!.
5th July 2003Arthur Bainbridge
please could someone send me an e mail of the article that started this discussion thank you
28th July 2003John Lewis
Thanks for the info' on the Lucknow V.C.'s. Can you clarify if the medals were won by regular, 'Soldiers of the Queen' ? Didn't trading companies such as the East India have their own private armies ?
John Lewis.